Today, the number of visitors to the Lake District is soaring, with over 20 million visiting in 2019. The LDNPA has predicted an annual year-on-year visitor growth of 5%, such that visitor numbers could reach 46 million by 2035.
83% of the 20 million visitors to the LDNP currently arrive by car. By far the most important route into the Park is the M6 Motorway. The section from Lancaster to Penrith via Shap was completed in 1970 at a cost of £50 million. This is by far the largest transport artery into the Park.
When Penrith railway station opened on 17th December 1846 it became a significant hub for tourists to Ullswater. Tourists arriving by train were taken by horse-drawn carriages or charabancs to Pooley Bridge. There is now debate about transforming Penrith railway station into a major hub for bringing people by train to Ullswater and encouraging them to leave their cars at home. There are also plans to expand the train service on the Windermere /Ambleside side of Kirkstone pass by opening up a faster service to Oxenholme and Windermere.
Today the hope is that the rail services will be revitalised and Penrith train station transformed into an integrated regional transport hub for the Eastern Lakes, with a network of cycle paths and footpaths stretching seamlessly from Penrith to Windermere and beyond.
A key role for the Ullswater Steamers
An integral part of such a system would be the unique Ullswater Steamers which have been plying their routes on Ullswater for 160 years. One of their beautiful, elegant vessels, the Lady of the Lake, was launched on 26th June 1877. She is believed to be the oldest working passenger vessel in the world and still delights all visitors who have the pleasure to sail with her. The Ullswater Steamers carry about 400,000 passengers on Ullswater every year.
Developing a future sustainable transport infrastructure is one of the greatest challenges facing politicians, park, district and local authorities, and communities. The pace of change in the last 50 years has been breathless. No-one can predict what it will look like in the next 50 years
by Tim Clarke